I had an evening in with Bees Player tonight and enjoyed listening to Billy Reeves and Chris Wickham describing Brentford’s more than decent performance at The Riverside Stadium against promotion favourites Middlesbrough.
A Lasse Vibe equaliser just after half time gave us false hope that our efforts would receive some tangible reward but it wasn’t to be as a strong, tough and experienced Middlesbrough team kept up the pressure and finally prevailed by three goals to one.
The match was far closer than the scoreline suggests and we certainly had our chances. Marco Djuricin disastrously missed twice from close range from opportunities that a striker of his pedigree should have snapped up, Alan Judge chipped just wide when the scores were level and Konstantin Kerschbaumer hit the keeper with the goal gaping.
That is certainly a cause for optimism but also one for frustration as you are only going to get a few chances against a team of Middlesbrough’s quality and you have to take them if you are going to come away with any tangible reward. The quality of finishing was what separated the two teams on the night. Boro took their chances – we didn’t.
Ultimately we can really have no complaints as the home team dominated and were ultimately just too clinical and strong for us on the night. We kept our shape, defended heroically and the midfield trio of Diagouraga, McCormack and Kerschbaumer more then held their own but we were forced backwards and were unable to cope with Middlesbrough’s pace down both flanks. Harley Dean and the debutant Yoann Barbet did their best to stem the flow but we were overrun and the goals finally came.
The defeat was disappointing but not a disaster or even a surprise when you put things into perspective. We were playing one of the promotion favourites and we certainly put on a far better performance than in either match at The Riverside Stadium last season.
As Exhibit One for the defence I give you the Brentford substitutes’ bench last night:
Yes, that only makes six in total. We were not even able to fill the bench with our full complement of seven substitutes and we were forced to include two goalkeepers in Jack Bonham and Mark Smith. None of them had ever started a league game for Brentford which just highlights their inexperience and the seriousness of the situation that we currently find ourselves in.
A quite ridiculous and unique state of affairs caused by an unprecedented and ever increasing injury list that is totally sabotaging our efforts to compete this season.
Two of last Saturday’s squad in James Tarkowski and Philipp Hofmann were also unfit to play at Middlesbrough and we now have a dozen players who are currently hors de combat:
- Andreas Bjelland
- Scott Hogan
- Josh McEachran
- Lewis Macleod
- Sam Saunders
- Marcos Tebar
- Philipp Hofmann
- Josh Clarke
- Andy Gogia
- James Tarkowski
- Nico Yennaris
Just look at the talent that is currently in the treatment room. Players of the calibre of Jota, Bjelland and McEachran. How can you compensate for this ill-fortune? The answer of course is that you can’t and we are simply totally stymied at the moment.
Middlesbrough by comparison were able to bring on players of the calibre of Albert Adomah, Kike and Adam Forshaw at a time when it looked as if Brentford might just be on the verge of taking control. Players of massive talent and experience who changed the game in their favour. In contrast we gave a late run out to Jermaine Udumaga a young kid being asked to do a man’s job and Ryan Woods, a new signing from the lower leagues. How can you expect either of them to change the course of the game?
As for having two goalkeepers on the bench – that just shows how desperate a position we are in at present. I remember Gordon Phillips being named as a non-playing substitute at Crewe back in the bad old days of the early 70s but those were times when we had a minuscule squad and were on the breadline.
Hopefully we can begin to get some players back soon but things might yet get worse before they improve as colossus, Harlee Dean, suffered a nasty looking injury late on. He managed to play on but who knows whether he will suffer a reaction and also be forced to sit out the next few games.
So what can we do to help us through this nightmare? We could possibly enter the loan market but we need some experience and some leaders rather than callow youngsters and they are almost impossible to come by. It will be interesting to see if we do manage to bring in some reinforcements and if we do so, what type of player we are able to recruit.
I have racked my brains for a solution and quite frankly there isn’t one apart from patience. We just have to keep our guard up, suck it up and take the blows that will rain down on us whilst we are on the ropes. As long as the team retains its spirit and some level of confidence then we will recover once we do manage to get a stronger team back on the field.
Margins are so narrow at this level of the game that the quality of the bench can make all the difference, as was shown tonight. We are miles away from being able to influence the results of matches by having game changing talent on the bench and we just have to accept that this is the case for the time being.
I really cannot think of a time in the recent past when we were afflicted so badly by injuries as is the case at present and it is doubly galling that this state of affairs is occurring whilst we are competing in perhaps the toughest league in Europe.
The knock-on effect of tonight is that after an exhausting schedule, a long and tiring journey home and a day off tomorrow, a weakened and tired squad will not be in the best shape to compete on Saturday in what is now looking to be a crucial and even must-win match against Preston North End.
Batten down the hatches, we are in for a tough time and there is choppy water ahead.
We need to stay positive, calm and united if the current appalling situation is not to overwhelm us.